I ask now about a difficult subject for me. This has come about from reading LessWrong’s essays on free will.
I do not claim to fully comprehend the ideas, so please give me some leeway if I have misunderstood. The ultimate conclusion seems to be defining “free will” as “the sensation of the brain’s decision-making process”.
The idea is that in order for us to perform effective actions, we need the sensation of having to choose between them.
I think this idea is right. I hope I am stating it correctly.
What I would like to think about, though, is what acceptance of natural will gives us. Natural will is where choices are entirely nature’s, rather than one physical body’s. Does the LessWrong definition of free will give more joy?
These two definitions, LessWrong’s free-will and this idea of natural-will, seem to be very compatible.
LessWrong’s usage of the term “free will” is not the traditional compatibilist idea, where essentially “free will” is defined as “the ability of a person to act, free from other people’s actions”.
The problem with that idea is that a “person” is extremely hard to separate from the rest of reality.
LessWrong’s free will refers to the sensation of choice, rather than to actual choice of a particular person.
There is another conception of free will, and perhaps this is the most common one. The basic concept is this: “if the clock were turned back, a different choice could be made”.
So there’s common-free-will, compatibilitist-free-will, LessWrong-free-will, and natural-will.
The conception of natural will is different from the rest. It talks about unity, about how individual consciousnesses can be freer if they accept they can’t make a wrong choice.
What does this mean? Well, a person might create an expectation of a desired future (say, getting a good job). Nature can proceed along, and let’s say this person doesn’t have that expectation fulfilled.
In common-free-will and compatibilist-free-will, the person should have tried harder, because then they would have been successful. LessWrong-free-will reinforces that the mind with the sensation of choice should recalibrate and put in more effort.
Here’s the beauty of natural will: by accepting that your choices are really nature’s, you allow yourself evenness of temperament and freedom from self-punishment.
Instead of blaming yourself when things go wrong, you realize you are part of nature. When you’re a part of nature, you cannot make a wrong choice.
This seems counterintuitive: of course you can make a wrong choice, right?
Consider this, though, what is the thing choosing?
It seems the first two conceptions of free will assume a core-self that is choosing, and LessWrong-free-will redefines choosing to mean a process of sensation rather than a physical thing doing the choosing.
In the first two, if there is no “who” can a choice really be wrong? What would it be wrong in reference to?
If an outside observer places expectations on an apple, it can fall in a wrong place. These expectations do not exist physically. They are imaginary. The observer is created by nature, so the observer is beholden to nature. If the observer does not have full control over nature, why should the observer judge itself harshly for failing to meet an expectation?
An apple can only fall in the right place. An observer can only follow nature’s guidance.
We are fantastic creatures that can bend ideas back onto ourselves and become self-aware. We are magnificently complex forces-of-nature. Without a core-self we can still be happy and productive.
Instead of discussing more about whether we have core-selves or not, let’s examine if acceptance of natural will can relieve burdens that are keeping us from enjoying life.
In LessWrong-free-will, the sensation of choice can wrap back onto itself and judge whether it was a good choice or not, depending on what sensations it wants. This idea doesn’t seem to affect natural will one way or the other.
Natural will means that choices are made by all of nature and expressed through us.
The Sun creates whirlpools by charging the oceans with energy. We humans are also charged by the Sun when we eat plants and animals. Just as a whirlpool cannot violate the order of the ocean, neither can we violate the order of nature.
So what does this mean? Can’t we still make a wrong choice?
Natural will says that our choices are based entirely in nature. If we are based in nature, we cannot do wrong to nature.
Can we make wrong choices? Can we choose to be lazy instead of studying?
The sensation of choice can occur, yes. It can feel like we made a wrong choice. This is the whole conclusion of LessWrong-free-will. However, it turns out the actual phenomenon of choosing laziness over studying cannot be made by one brain or even one galaxy. So an actual wrong choice cannot exist.
Everything in nature is tied to everything else. While a sensation of does choice occur, there is no separation between you-and-me or between us-and-a-galaxy.
If everything is connected, then there is no sense in blaming yourself for failing to achieve a goal. Nature is always guiding us. You are nature watching itself.
This is why it’s called “natural will”: instead of imaginary separate-bodies choosing, choices are made through nature.
Natural will is a feeling of oneness with nature.
Don’t blame yourself for failing to reach a goal. You are nature, and nature cannot fail itself.
There is just nature, plain and simple, beautiful and elegant.
Nature can only do right.